I have been taught since young that extensive reading can broaden and strengthen one’s mind, however, the importance of connecting with nature has not been often emphasized in my family’s tradition. Having lived in Canada for almost 5 years, I began to appreciate the joys of physical activity and connecting with friends outdoors. I realized that high-endurance workouts train us to be mentally and physically strong, and cannot be achieved in other ways.
I started my journey to outdoor sports back in 2014, when I received an invitation to summer rock climbing camp. It was held in Squamish and hosted by Climb and Conquer Society. I had doubts about joining this camp because I had never tried climbing before, yet intense curiosity and desire to overcome my own fear persuaded me to give it a try and see what it was all about. Leading up to the event, the anticipation was intense. I was both very nervous and very excited. We drove from Vancouver, hiked the first day and camped out on Saturday night. Sunday was for climbing. I could feel my heart pounding as I tightened my harness and buckled my helmet.
I could feel the ground melting beneath me as I climbed up. On the first half of the route, I did not encounter any obstacles. It seemed easy and I was convinced I could make it to the top, but I was soon blocked by a giant protruding rock. I tried multiple times to lift my body up by straightening my arms while holding on the ledges, but the rock was too slippery for me to grip firmly. My energy was running out, but going down was not an option. I had to go onwards, but I had never dealt with a challenge like this before. I decided to take a different path: I took a detour around the slippery, overhanging rock. I swiftly changed my footholds and fumbled for small cracks to grab on. I was not as confident as I was at the outset of this climb. I felt my legs shaking when I pushed myself up. My nerves were tight because one wrong step could result in a fall—I was secured with the rope, but still felt a fear. A concerted effort and a few moments later and, I was able to climb to the top.
I was so proud of myself: working my way through a path I thought I would never reach. Surrounded by picturesque scenery, stroked by gentle summer breeze, I felt the happiness brought by success. My interest in pursuing outdoor sports, especially rock climbing, was piqued.
After this experience, I took up other outdoors activities, such as skiing and hiking, which opened my eyes to the new world beyond academic context. Grade 11, I started participating in cross country running, rock climbing, swimming, which strengthened my body and mind. In grade 12, I co-founded a club called the Grizzly Bear Club with Climb and Conquer, in an effort to galvanize the youth to engage with nature. Our club has organized many events, such as snowshoeing and monthly potlucks. I get together with other youth to get to know one another better, share some experiences, and laughter. I used to think that getting good grades was all I should focus on during high school, but the engagement with my community enriched me from within. I found a new fulfillment in life.
Arrietty Song is a founder of the Grizzly Bear Youth Club and manages the camps through the summer. She is 18, from China originally and moved to Canada 5 years ago. Arrietty is starting into an undergraduate degree in biological sciences at SFU. Web: www.climbnconquer.ca/vangrizzlybear Facebook: @arrietty.jd Instagram: @songarrietty